Exactly who is doing the drinking?

‘Education is something you get, learning is something you do’

This afternoon we had a very interesting local authority meeting based around Nationals and a little discussion around the New Higher. Greg Coburn from Education Scotland gave a presentation on both and guided us through his thoughts on the courses and more importantly he suggested learning and teaching strategies which would help meet the assessment standards.

I have mentioned and discussed in a previous blog my ultimate goal on how I would like to teach the NQs and todays workshop confirmed that my thoughts and aims are on the right track. However, as a realist I understand I am a long way off this. Greg began his talk with reference to external markers reports from the Higher exams. The report states, and I fully agree, that too many candidates are writing pre planned and prescribed answers to exam questions. They are remembering and not creating and evaluating. Remembering is at the bottom of the pyramid in Blooms Taxonomy, is this where we want our learners to be in Physical Education. I don’t think so!

However i do understand how this happens, the two term dash, pressure from SMT, 30-plus pupils in front of you that you need to get through the exams, extra pressures such as reports, rewriting and planning courses the list goes on. Is this an excuse, do we as a profession need to change how we do because I think what we do is pretty good? Probably yes. I for one am guilty of sometimes taking the easy option, offering the class a sentence starter and big hints so that they are ALL set on the right path to answering questions. Greg stated several times today that learners progress at different speeds, and this is very true. So why ask pupils to remember a side of A4 on the fast break? what does this teach them? how does this demonstrate their learning? it will get them marks when they answer this question but can they apply their learning to another activity, can they evaluate their fast break performance, can they transfer the skills across a range of activities and contexts? probably not! These are our Skills for Learning, Life and Work and should underpin our planning.

As a professional I know the areas I need to change in my practise but it is the process of changing and EMBEDDING new strategies into my every day learning & teaching that is the hard part. I want my pupils to be utilising the top of Blooms pyramid in evaluating and creating. It comes down to what can the learners do, what do they know and how do they know this? We have recently changed how we assess S1-S3 with these questions at the heart of our pupils learning and I believe this is a step in the right direction.

This is a demanding time for PE teachers across Scotland but it is also a golden opportunity. This is our Silver Bullet and I agree with Greg and many other practitioners that echo his vision. I want to create, plan and deliver courses that will allow pupils to explore, research, develop and improve aspects of their performance but the key message from today was that they need the tools necessary to do this. Greg highlighted both the Skills for Learning, Life and Work and the Significant Aspects of Learning in Physical Education. He asked this ‘How many of us plan explicitly for these in our lessons? How many of this happens by chance and design? Many Physical Educators will claim that they are developing pupils to manage their time, to think creatively or to manage and be managed by others but is this a Learning Intention? How many of us are simply passing on our education and not allowing our learners to gain an education for themselves? How many of us are planning for these win our blocks of work?

I believe that if we raise the bar for our pupils they will simply learn to jump higher. Some of us, including me, are a bit off from delivering our learning & teaching in this way but we are also very close. Physical Education has some of the best practitioners around, I see this everyday in my own department, in other departments and through what I read in blogs and on twitter. We pride ourselves on how our subject is unique in how it shapes pupils to become great young people? but are we doing this, more often than not we are but we can do it better. This is a vital time for our subject and I hope that we take this opportunity to make it bigger, better and the subject it derives to be.

Going back to todays meeting, we had aims to share our practice and share best practice on how best to deliver National 4/5 Physical Education, we did this but we also had the opportunity to see how others are doing it and how Education Scotland see it being delivered. In terms of my own teaching there are a lot of good parts but there are also more than a lot that needs to change or improve. I want my pupils to be able to apply, evaluate and create, manage their time, think creatively and work well with others to produce excellent work in the NQs. It was also said today that the NQs are not the pinnacle of our subject, although many think it is including our learners. I can see why this statement was made as Core Physical Education is our everything and this is where we can produce the learners we want from our NQs. I for one need to reevaluate what I teach as part of my Broad and General Phase, this is where i need to embed the skills that the pupils will need to produce the excellent work I will expect in my NQs. Today wasn’t groundbreaking for me but it did confirm and clarify my thoughts and I hope that from here I will develop an S1-S3 curriculum with learning experiences that are dynamic, engaging and relevant but also develop pupils that will produce the work I expect of them.

I encourage anyone to hear what Greg has to say and use it to evaluate their own learning and teaching and use it to ensure that our courses and NQs are the gold standard we want them to be.

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